If anyone has a tougher November/December schedule than the Eden Prairie High School girls hockey team, coach Jaime Grossman hasn’t seen it.
Said schedule includes Maple Grove, Brainerd, Hill Murray, Blake, North Wright County, Edina, Minnetonka and Andover.
While the schedule is daunting, a bigger issue, perhaps, is Eden Prairie’s health.
“We’ve had varsity players miss more time in the first week and half of the season than we had all last year,” said Grossman.
When that changes, watch out.
On paper, Eden Prairie’s top line — Sydney Langseth, Grace Kuipers and Carrie Byrnes — should be one of the best lines in the state.
“We have two dynamic playmakers in Syd and Grace,” said Grossman, “and unmatched speed with Carrie. Andover’s top line is comparable, but from what I remember from last year, I can’t think of anyone else.”
Eden Prairie’s second and third lines will be talented but young.
“Of our next seven forwards, only one is a senior,” said the coach.
Eden Prairie defensive corps returns experience.
“We really like our top seven,” said Grossman, “and they were all on the roster last year.”
Its top two units include Anna Brown/Christina Spangler and Claire Kuipers/Kayla Schiel.
The bulk of Eden Prairie’s goaltending duties will rest on the shoulders of Molly Goergen.
“She returns as a unanimous All-Lake Conference selection,” said Grossman. “What we really like about Molly is that no moment is too big.
“We don’t have that senior backup like we had last year,” he added, “but we have a couple younger kids behind her if she needs a break. That said, I’d expect Molly to start almost every game.”
With top-end talent, Eden Prairie’s special-teams’ play should be special. They can score on the power play, and they have the ability to score on their penalty kill.
“Our goal,” said Grossman. “Is to be a good 5-on-5 team. To do that, we will focus on our D-zone.
“It’s really pretty simple,” he added. “Know your job, do your job and do the little things make everyone around you better.”
On paper, again, Section 2AA should be a two-team race.
“Defending champion Minnetonka is the team to beat,” said Grossman. “They have one of the strongest D-corps in the state. They’re big and they’re physical.”
“We have to find a way to be better than they are,” said Grossman.
Eden Prairie and Minnetonka meet for the first time on Tuesday, Dec. 17, in Eden Prairie. They’ll play their second Lake Conference game at Minnetonka on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
A third meeting, if it gets to that, could determine a section champion.